Imprisoned malcontent stores weapons, launches attacks


A confined chimp working things out in his head: Should we be worried?
A confined chimp working things out in his head: Should we be worried?Courtesy tim ellis
A dozen years ago guards at a Swedish prison north of Stockholm discovered a secret cache of weapons hoarded by an inmate named Santino. Certain that some kind of trouble was brewing, prison officials put the otherwise model prisoner under close observation. And it was fortunate they did. Santino was observed several times using his rock arsenal as missiles that he hurled at visitors to the prison. No one was seriously injured in the assault and Santino was disciplined for his actions. But since then subsequent lockdowns have resulted in the discovery and confiscation of hundreds of similar ammunition stockpiles in Santino’s cell. And officials fear the prisoner is planning other attacks.

Normally this wouldn’t be that unusual a scenario. Prison life can be difficult and sometimes the frustrations of incarceration cause detainees to act out against their captors and society in general.

But in this case the prison is actually a zoo and the trouble-making prisoner is a chimpanzee.

When the male chimp’s weapons cache was first discovered, zoo officials called in Mathias Osvath, a cognitive scientist from Sweden’s Lund University and Santino’s behavior was monitored closely. Not only was the 31 year-old ape observed throwing stones at zoo visitors, but was he also observed searching out weaknesses in the walls of his enclosure, digging out loosened chunks of concrete, and hiding them for future barrages.

"These observations convincingly show that our fellow apes do consider the future in a very complex way," Osvath said. "It implies that they have a highly developed consciousness, including lifelike mental simulations of potential events."

And if that’s not disturbing enough:

“It could be that he is a genius, only more research will tell. On the other hand our research showed the same in orangutans and bonobos so he is not alone," said Joseph Call, a co-author of the study, which appeared in the journal Current Biology.

Oh, Santino’s a genius all right – an evil genius – and one with a nasty grudge against humanity.

“It is extremely frustrating for him that there are people out of his reach who are pointing at him and laughing," Osvath said. "It cannot be good to be so furious all the time."

If that's the case, I think Sweden should consider buying Gitmo for a more secure confinement of the unruly primate. In the meantime, let’s hope Santino doesn’t start enriching uranium.

BBC story story

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Thor's picture
Thor says:

At the gorilla enclosure at Como Zoo, they have signs posted to be aware that the gorillas may fling objects at the visitors. The most handy thing for them to throw there: their excrement!

posted on Tue, 03/10/2009 - 1:09pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Here's hoping the Como Zoo gorillas aren't caching their poop to have a nice little arsenal going the next time they need one...

posted on Tue, 03/10/2009 - 1:52pm
Thor's picture
Thor says:

Uh, I'm not going to volunteer to head up that investigation.

posted on Tue, 03/10/2009 - 2:33pm
Roosevelt81's picture
Roosevelt81 says:

For those of you old enough to remember 'Planet of the Apes' come to mind. He's waiting for the humans to destroy themselves and begin the ape society...Or he's bored and thinks too much. Perhaps the zookeepers should offer a healthy alternative for activity.

posted on Tue, 03/10/2009 - 4:21pm
Candace's picture
Candace says:

dangerous much??? i dont think id wana be the person to visit that zoo, and get that lil guy mad...

posted on Wed, 03/11/2009 - 10:53pm
tao's picture
tao says:

the monkey wants to get out i think

posted on Thu, 03/12/2009 - 4:11pm
Esmeralda's picture
Esmeralda says:

Do they actually do that????

posted on Fri, 03/13/2009 - 6:40pm
mdr's picture
mdr says:

Well, Santino certainly does.

posted on Fri, 03/13/2009 - 6:54pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Chimps also use clubs to break open beehives and get honey. Vicious little creatures, aren’t they? Or viscous-loving creatures. Depends.

posted on Thu, 03/19/2009 - 6:16pm
curious's picture
curious says:

yes, and humans can skin each other alive with dull knives for reasons that don't even add up to obtaining food/resources...vicious little creatures, aren't they. goodness, life is amazing.

posted on Thu, 03/19/2009 - 7:10pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

I think Gene was just punning here, not passing judgment on chimps.

posted on Fri, 03/20/2009 - 10:37am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

These are not mutually exclusive.

The viciousness and brutality of humans is a separate issue from the viciousness and brutality of chimps. The fact that humans can behave awfully in no way diminishes the fact that chimps can behave awfully as well.

posted on Fri, 03/20/2009 - 4:58pm
mdr's picture
mdr says:

I saw that story. I liked how the one chimp pounded on a hive a thousand times with his club until it broke open. That's real determination, I think!

posted on Thu, 03/19/2009 - 8:11pm
bonks49's picture
bonks49 says:

wow this kinda makes me laugh. The scary thing is that chimps and humans are like 99.8% (my # might be off) related. They are really really smart animals.

posted on Fri, 03/20/2009 - 11:37am

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <h3> <h4> <em> <i> <strong> <b> <span> <ul> <ol> <li> <blockquote> <object> <embed> <param> <sub> <sup>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may embed videos from the following providers vimeo, youtube. Just add the video URL to your textarea in the place where you would like the video to appear, i.e.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.

More information about formatting options